Wednesday, August 6, 2014

National Night Out

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Maybe I'm just biased. I think Newark Community Solutions first National Night Out celebration was pretty awesome! On Tuesday 8/5 the staff of Newark Community Solutions, the Newark Youth Court, and Newark United Against Violence (NUAV), our community violence reduction program in Newark's West Ward, and our neighbors celebrated the National Night Out Against Crime with a block party, BBQ and community garden dedication. The events were held in the parking lot of the NUAV office and the adjoining street.  The parking lot had plenty of room for grilling, jumping rope and yes even some dancing! The night also served as an open house of sorts for our neighbors and anyone else who stopped by the event and wanted to learn a bit more about what we do. 
The National Night Out was first introduced in 1984 as the brain child of the National Association of Town Watch. In its original iteration, the event was meant to heighten awareness and strengthen participation in local anti-crime efforts. Since then, the program has grown to involve millions of people in thousands of communities in all 50 states. And, the typical expression of a community’s participation in the program has moved beyond keeping porch lights lit to include block parties, parades, rallies and meetings with local law enforcement.

Our National Night Out celebration included a presentation by the Newark Youth Court. Youth Court is our program at the Newark Municipal Court where teenagers serve as jurors, judges and advocates, handling real- life cases involving their peers. On this occasion the youth court members presented their plans for a vacant lot Newark Community Solutions had recently adopted through Newark’s Adopt-A-Lot program. The lot (soon to be garden) is located just two blocks from the NUAV office. In front of a group of NCS staffers, partner organizations and local residents, the teens, who are all Newark high school students, described their theme for the garden which included the layout for a mural.  

The evening closed with a very special and unexpected visit from our newly elected mayor! Mayor Ras Baraka chatted with residents, toured the NUAV office and posed for pictures with staff, NUAV participants and Newark Youth Court members! It was a perfect end to a wonderful summer evening.

Special thanks to the NUAV team, the Newark Police Department and our awesome neighbors at 298 S. Orange Ave. The evening was a big success and a true collaborative effort that certainly epitomized the spirit of National Night Out! 

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